Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Montessori

The other night Bernie told me she didn't love me. This did not exactly break my heart. Marcus had just told me he didn't love me because I wouldn't let him use my computer. It was bedtime and I don't get my highest popularity ratings at that hour. So I asked Bernie why she didn't love me. She said with a little pout, "Because all I do every day is watch Pokemon."

"Oh really?" I said, wondering how that was my fault. I'm the one who frequently turns off the t.v. I'm the one who says 'no' when she wants to watch t.v. "So what do you want to do instead of watch t.v.?"

"I want to go to school!" She blurted tearily. And then I did feel bad. She's the only one not in school. Last year she had Georgie and Marcus to hang out with. Life must be quite lonely for her now. Bernie is such a good sport. She happily accompanies me on errands. She rarely complains of the hours spent in the car driving the girls to and from school. She helps me around the house. She's been asking about going to school since September. The Montessori where Marcus and Lidia attended was not an option because the hours conflicted with our commute. And frankly, we needed a breather from paying tuition. Our original plan was that she would start preschool in January, but I had started to consider waiting until next year. I am teaching her to read with the Bob books. She has play dates. I was thinking of signing her up for a play group and calling it good.

I related to J what Bernie had said about school and he agreed we should start her in January. Today I visited a Montessori school near J's work.

I watched the children in their classrooms of which there are three. There are two teachers per classroom with about a dozen children. Within each classroom the children range in age from 2 1/2 to 5 1/2. This is something else I love about Montessori--the mix of ages. The younger ones learn how to behave and do their work from the older ones. The children were at their various stations, and all seemed quite intensely occupied.

The Montessori method worked so well for Lidia and Marcus. Georgie did not do Montessori. She went to one year of Spanish preschool. It was actually a community ed preschool for hispanic children, and we were invited to attend even though we didn't qualify financially. The two previous years I had helped with translating in a community ed program for hispanic mothers and children. I think it was an overall positive experience for Georgie. However, the teacher told me at a conference that she didn't think Georgie really fit in with the other kids, that she perhaps needed a more stimulating environment. This did not concern me because I felt that she had all the stimulating environment she needed at home. She was going to this preschool to help with her Spanish and get to know other hispanic children. However, when I look back now I think Georgie probably would have benefited more from a different preschool. Live and learn.

Lidia started at age 3 in a traditional preschool. You know, I hate to use the word "traditional" in this case. She attended a preschool that follows current educational trend. She was bored there. She loved her teachers, but often complained that she already knew her ABCs, numbers, and colors. She didn't want to learn them again. I heard from a friend about a little Montessori school that was new to our area. Her son attended there and he didn't like it much because it was "too hard." The following year I enrolled Lidia there without knowing very much about Montessori methods. She loved it. She was so much happier learning at her own pace. She flourished. She got tired of addition and subtraction. She was adding double and triple digits. She told her teacher she wanted to learn multiplication, and her teacher was happy to help her learn.

Marcus wasn't ready for preschool at age 3. We didn't start him at the Montessori until he was 4. He also had a wonderful experience there. He loved his school days. He went three days a week but would have loved to go every day. He is a very intense child, and I think the methods used at school were especially good for him.

Last Spring my neighbor suggested a few times that I sign Bernie up at the same preschool as her daughter so we could car pool. I tried to avoid telling her that I would never enroll my child in a preschool that wasn't Montessori, but she was persistent and she eventually got the picture. She told me that she didn't care about the academics at preschool because after all, it is preschool. She only wanted socialization for her daughter. (My neighbor's daughter is a super smart kid. She is starting to read and her handwriting is really good! She's Bernie's age.) I understand my neighbor's attitude and I have no problem with it. However, Montessori is so much more than academics. It's about teaching children to be disciplined and motivated. They learn to love learning and academic work at a young age. I found a site that has some good info on Montessori, and I love this quote: "Children are quiet by choice and out of respect for others within the environment - The Montessori classroom allows children to return to the 'inner peace' that is a natural part of their personalities."

I was very pleased with the school and I think that's where we'll send Bernie. It is expensive. But you know what? I saw that the preK tuition at Blake School is 10,000 bucks. My little Montessori is not that expensive!

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